Growing a Family – God’s Way

Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2005: Four years ago today Zuzana and Tony were married at Blessed Kateri Church in Santa Clarita, California. Today we are celebrating both our four year wedding anniversary and also our first Thanksgiving as a family of three. Check out our Thanksgiving Photos.

sneed familyThey say parenting is one of the greatest challenges a couple can face. But it’s not the first time it’s been done, and there is a fairly reliable blueprint. God knows what it takes to make us happy, because he made us and knows our nature. He also knows what it takes to raise children in such as way that they will have a solid foundation upon which to build their lives. Why re-invent the wheel? As it says in the book of Proverbs: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov 22:6).

In preparation for parenting, we took a class from a couple we know, Alan and Buffy Fitch, called “Growing Kids God’s Way,” developed by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo (http://www.gfi.org). It’s been recently updated and re-titled “Let the Children Come”, with a secular version called “On Becoming Babywise”.

Volume one of the Let the Children Come series is called “Along the Infant Way” and lays out basic strategies for feeding and sleeping. But the basis of the entire series is the notion that parenting should be family-centered, not child- centered. It’s an important distinction. Child- centered parenting makes the child the first priority of the family unit, but children have a built-in need to know that the marriage between their parents is safe and sound. A child’s sense of security and safety depends of the stability of his parents’ marriage, upon which his well-being depends. When parents make the child the center, instead of their marriage, his sense of security is subtly jeopardized and unconscious feelings of insecurity can creep in and manifest themselves in various forms of attention- getting behavior.

The first area that parents need to think about when an infant enters their world is that of feeding. The Ezzo’s discuss various feeding philosophies, from demand feeding and attachment parenting, to schedule feeding and the teachings of Dr. Spock (not the Vulcan from Star Trek). They advocate a method called Parent Directed Feeding (PDF), which employs a flexible schedule that is subject to the assessment of the child’s hunger cues by parents. Basically, the idea is to give the child a full meal every 2 ½ to 3 ½ hours, depending on whether he exhibits manifestations of hunger in that timeframe. With the stabilization of the child’s metabolism, and the establishment of a wake – sleep cycle, most children whose parents use this method are able to sleep though the night by around 8 weeks of age.

Since our son, Kerrigan, is just 2 and a half weeks old, we have yet to see him start to sleep through the night. But we have already started to feed him on a flexible three hour routine, providing some wake-time play activities between feeding and nap time. We’ll let you know how things turn out, so stay tuned!

About Tony Sneed

Married with three children.
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10 Responses to Growing a Family – God’s Way

  1. TulipGirl says:

    The parents I’ve known who have used Ezzo parenting (both the secular versions as well as the versions marketed to the church) have been extraordinary. A huge commitment to active parenting. A deep love for their children. A willingness to do the “hard work” of parenting. And honestly–these are the factors that I see bringing success–not Ezzo’s ideas.

    I recommend reading more “been there, done that” wisdom of Ezzo parents here:

    Voices of Experience

  2. Tony says:

    I welcome your comment … In fact, I’m excited that someone found my blog and had the initiative to leave a comment! I think debate and discussion are good things. Thank you.

    The reasons we decided to try the Ezzo (Bible-based) method are:

    a) We agree with its underlying philosophy and theology of family-centered versus child-centered parenting and that family-centered parenting actually benefits the child’s innate need for a secure family structure.

    b) We’ve seen many children raised on this method and observed that they are qualitatively different than their peers, not because their parents are any more loving or dedicated, but because, in our opinion, the biblical approach yields children who will be better equiped to navigate the currents of life and prosper.

    Using any method, including that promoted by the Ezzos, means taking an educated, intelligent and nuanced approach based on a thorough understanding of both the principles and techniques. I find most people who criticize the Ezzo approach do not really understand it or have not properly applied it.

    The crux of the approach is that it is the job of parents to properly assess the needs of their child and respond appropriately. If parents do this, their child will be properly fed and well rested and will exhibit signs of continued growth and well-being. That’s the acid test, not only of the method, but of how well it is understood and practiced.

  3. TulipGirl says:

    I respect that you are loving parents with a desire to raise your child to the glory of God, and that you are seeking out resources to aid you along the way.

    And I can see that as a Believer, you desire to adhere to ideas that are in line with the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


    The reasons we decided to try the Ezzo (Bible-based) method are:

    I am a Christian also and believe the Bible is given to us “by inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life.” And I also believe that we are to be very careful in our use of the Bible.

    I would content that what Gary Ezzo teaches in his “Let the Children Come. . .” curriculum, from the infant “Along the Infant Way” through his older children’s materials, “Along the Virtuous Way” are not Bible-based as you say. Rather, they are based in man-made ideas baptized with Christian language and using Scripture to proof-text. One of the most flagrant of these is Gary Ezzo’s appeal to God not responding to Christ on the cross as a reason to assess and choose to not respond to an infant’s cries. Really, sloppy use of Scripture like that should raise yellow flags for anyone.

    I encourage you to read this series of essays on Biblical Hermeneutics written with the Christian parent in mind. You may find it interesting, as it references Gary Ezzo specificly.

  4. TulipGirl says:

    b) We’ve seen many children raised on this method and observed that they are qualitatively different than their peers, not because their parents are any more loving or dedicated. . .

    Are you aware that Gary Ezzo has publically described his relationship with his grown daughters as simply “cordial”? That he has moved from the west coast to the east coast, away from his children and grandchildren, because (he states publically) it is “more friendly” in South Carolina?

    Are you aware there are online support circles for parents who used (correctly!) and discarded Ezzo’s ideas when they saw how it was detrimental to their families?

    “I find most people who criticize the Ezzo approach do not really understand it or have not properly applied it. . . That’s the acid test, not only of the method, but of how well it is understood and practiced. “

    Are you aware that a great many of Gary Ezzo’s early supporters, co-workers and “Contact Moms” have ditched the GFI programs? These are people who helped teach and promote Ezzo’s materials–and definitely understood it and practiced it. Did you even read any of the “Voices of Experience” stories I linked to above?

    Please understand that I’m not criticizing you or your wife. I would disagree with you on this idea, “. . .We’ve seen many children raised on this method and observed that they are qualitatively different than their peers, not because their parents are any more loving or dedicated. . .” The successes I’ve seen in Ezzo families come from the parents love and dedication. Their hard work and commitment to building a strong family. Their devotion to the Lord and daily desire to pass that along to their children. And this success comes in spite of, not because of, the “principles” taught by Gary Ezzo.

  5. Peter says:

    Interesting. I have inately decided that schedule feeding, I think as you have discribed it, is the best way to feed kids. Stability is the name of the game. It’s good that a child can develope a sense of control over his environment (I get hungry and cry and then I get fed), but the rythem of

    Does this thing have a spell checker???

  6. Tony says:

    Hi there, It seems there’s some controversy surrounding the Ezzo’s and their school of parenting. There are bound to be negative reactions and experiences to just about any method, because people understand and apply the method in many different ways, and there are differences in temperament among children and families. I did read many of the stories from the link you posted. I think many problems arise when people try to follow a method too blindly, without adequately exercising their God-given gift of wisdom and practicing prudence. I am sure there are countless testimonies from folks who had a positive experience applying some of the techniques in this way. In fact, I know at least three families that fall into this category. And I know a few families with parents even more dedicated but who did not base their parenting on similar principles. All I can say is the comparison between them is like night and day, and we are choosing the approach which yields the results we would like to attain, with God’s grace.

    We’re not the type of people who blindly follow any method, but we intend to judge each technique in light of our understanding of Scripture, asking for the Lord’s grace to follow his Word. That’s our ultimate authority – any other theories must be judged in the light of God’s revealed truth. When we see something at variance with that truth, we’re more than happy to discard it. So far, and we’re just at the beginning, we see quite a bit of convergence between things the Ezzo’s are saying and the truth of God’s Word, especially the underlying premise of the primacy of the marital relationship within the family unit. That’s where we see some of the worldly parenting philosophies, such as some of the attachment parenting books, go astray. We don’t know yet how it will all turn out, but we’re confident in the underlying principles and in the help we receive each day from the Lord.

  7. Peter (Tony's friend) says:

    Well, TulipGirl sounds like an interesting girl.

    I was going to ask where it says in the Bible how to feed your baby. In other words. “Train up a child…” I agree with, but how does that tell you how to feed your kid?

  8. Tony says:

    Glad you’ve chimed in … I don’t want to get embroiled in controversy, since everyone has their opinion. My preference is to judge a theory on its own merits, not merely on what other people are saying. Your right that the Bible says nothing about how to feed a baby, but the underlying principle is one of family and marriage centricity, as opposed to basing your parenting solely on the needs and preferences of your child. Children are naturally ego-centric, and parents abdicate their responsibility to guide and form their children, according to Proverbs 22:6, when they simply allow their children to dictate how they should be raised. I’ve personally seen the result of that, and it’s not pretty.

    Feeding is a good case in point. Much of the breastfeeding literature out there advocates something called demand-feeding, which seems to undermine the baby’s ability to stabilize their metabolism and sleep through the night. The approach we’re taking is a flexible routine, taking into account the hunger cues expressed by the baby. In the 5 weeks since our baby’s birth, this has worked out beautifully. Because we strive to give him a full feeding at each feeding, he rarely expresses hunger more frequently than every 2 and a half hours. Occasionally when he does, we feed him. That is called “parent directed assessment” (PDF). The Ezzo’s do not advocate hyper-scheduling, or only going by the clock. When the baby is hungry, you feed him, but you don’t respond to the baby’s psychological need for comfort only by providing him with a nipple. The demand-feeding folks tend to go down that path. I’ve seen some cases where this resulted in babies not being able to sleep through the night without a feeding until 2 years of age. Clearly, that’s an unnecessary stress on the mother (if she’s breast feeding), and it can cause many Mom’s to give up on breastfeeding prematurely.

    P.S. Use MS Word to create and spell check your posting. Then paste it in the web page.

  9. TulipGirl says:

    Ultimately, it is your decision as parents how to raise your child. I respect that, and respect that God has delegated that responsibility to you. I also see that parenting in a way that honors the Lord and is in line with the Bible is important to you.

    I want to. . . very gently. . . challenge you to evaluate all Scriptures mentioned by Gary Ezzo. Line up the “principles” with what the Bible really says–not simply what Gary Ezzo says the Bible says. I encourage you to be discerning and take a careful approach to Scripture, brushing up on sound hermenuetical principles if necessary.

    And I’ld like to provide one more link–this evaluation of Gary Ezzo’s parenting materials done by Pastor Kent McClain. One thing that is very valuable in this review is understanding the evaluation process Dr. McClain went through before writing it. I think it will bless you, as you seek to raise your wee one to the glory of God.

    Dr. Kent McClain’s GKGW Evaluation
    http://www.tmoments.com/Introduction.htm

  10. TulipGirl says:

    Whoops! Supplied the link to the evaluation process, but not the meat of his critique. Please pay special attention to the concerns about misuse of Scripture.

    http://ourworld.cs.com/kent1750/GKGW/contents.htm

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